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    Call for Papers

    The Blurring Boundaries between B2B actors and Consumers in the Supply Chains/Networks of Digitalizing Business Models

    Deadline for submission: 1 March 2018

    Overview and Purpose

    This special issue will consider the premise that new types of business to business (B2B) actors and suppliers are emerging in many industrial sector supply chains and networks due to digitalization and flexible production systems (Mahadevan 2000). This premise very much includes consumers, who are becoming involved in such supply chain networks and processes as active co-producers or ‘prosumers’, supplying work, information/data, or other resources to the network.

    Indeed, consumers may be considered akin to B2B actors (Xing, Grant, McKinnon and Fernie 2011) by providing work (e.g., self-service-based business models and technologies), personal information (e.g., location information, Uber), or simply presence and attention (e.g. advertising-based business models, Google) to the supply network, besides consuming or using the products/services supplied. The proliferation of the Internet and online sales and delivery means that the supply chain is no longer simply ‘point of origin’ to ‘point of sale’ (Grant 2012), but is extending to the ‘point of consumption’ contained in many definitions of marketing, logistics and supply chain management or SCM (Lambert and Cooper 2000).

    These developments will inevitably blur the boundaries of B2B firms / actors and consumers, but little is known at present about the implications of this to (a) traditional B2B actors in various industries, and their incumbent business models, on one hand, and (b) end-consumers who are starting to assume the partial role of B2B actors or entrepreneurs in the supply network, on the other. Examples of implications include the notion of trust among actors (Ratnasingam 2005), information exchange and use (Brennan and Croft 2012), coordination and collaboration for order fulfillment (Berthon, Ewing, Pitt and Naudé 2003), and more “social” forms of customer relationship management (CRM) including content produced by consumers (Wongsansukcharoen, Trimetsoontorn and Fongsuwan 2015), as well as commoditization of digital processes and business community platforms (Markus and Loebbecke 2013). Thus, implications arise from multiple viewpoints, including sensemaking, resource, activity, capability, and information/knowledge perspectives (Strandvik, Holmlund, and Grönroos 2014). From the individual B2B firm’s perspective, this means innovation, transformation, and replication of previous business models over time, vis-à-vis the industry and interorganizational relationships (Aspara et al. 2010, 2013; Holmlund, Kowalkowski, and Biggemann 2016).

    Thus, we seek quantitative and qualitative empirical papers for this special issue that focus on these questions. Specific themes or topics of interest include:

     What kind of multi-way customer relationship management processes, on the one hand, and supply chain management processes, on the other, are needed by traditional B2B actors when consumers become active members of supply chain (even as ‘prosumers’)? Further, what are the implications for collaboration and coordination?

     How are consumers reacting to considering their own input (information, presence, work, etc.) as valuable ‘currency’ or value for the supply chain, besides money paid for end products? What are the implications of this for other participants and B2B actors in the supply network? To what extent and in what ways is the role of a ‘channel captain’ to control supply chain processes shifting from B2B firms companies to consumers?

     What type of new business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) or business-to-consumer-to-business (B2C2B) business models and processes are emerging in these kinds of supply networks, and what does this mean to incumbent B2B actors?

     As such models for networking digital suppliers and supply chains presumably require more information, being data-intensive, what are the implications for analytics to process such data?

     When assuming the partial role of B2B actors/suppliers, are consumers treating products and services increasingly like commodities, focusing e.g. on price and cost of service – or vice versa?

     How is the role of customer service, warranties, and product returns changing within B2B companies’ supply chain and business model when end consumers are increasingly active participants in the supply?

     Where is the hedonic shopping experience taking place, if at all, if consumers are starting to act more like B2B supply chain members?

     What dark sides / problems / challenges follow (for the customer and the other actors in the chain) when the role of the customer in the supply network is changing? How can these issues be managed?

     How are industrial sectors rapidly transforming or how are new sectors emerging in which the role of the customer is expanding and becoming significantly more multi-faceted? What are the consequences for the involved actors and what can be learnt from these?

     How do emotions for the consumers or other parties in the network play a role in the transition?

     How are supply chains generally orchestrated / managed when the consumer’s role is expanding and changing?

     What ethical aspects arise from this changing role of the customer?

     What drivers / motivations exist for the customer to change its role?

     How are engagement platforms and social media supporting or hindering customers and network actors?

     How is the context, i.e. the surrounding society, supporting or hindering the customers and network actors, and what is the influence on society?

     In terms of a processual or longitudinal perspective, how has this transition unfolded over time?

     What are the implications for non-profit settings?

    We encourage the submission of empirically-based papers that also offer strong managerial relevance. In particular, we are interested in those papers that apply strong theory, and innovative methodologies, data, and analytical techniques.

    Manuscript Preparation and Submission

    To submit a paper please visit the IMM editorial site at Please login, register as an author, and submit the paper as the site will instruct you. Submissions are welcome no later than 1 March 2018. When you get to the step in the process that asks you for the type of paper, select SI: Blurring Boundaries. All papers will be reviewed through the standard double-blind peer review process of IMM. In preparation of their manuscripts, authors are asked to follow the Author Guidelines closely. A guide for authors, sample articles and other relevant information for submitting papers are available at:

    All queries about the special issue should be sent to the Guest Editors (see below).

    Guest Editors

    David B. Grant, Professor of Logistics, Hull University Business School / Professor of Supply Chain Management & Social Responsibility, Hanken School of Economics,

    Jaakko Aspara, Grönroos Professor of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics,

    Maria Holmlund, Professor of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics,


    Aspara, J., Hietanen, J. & Tikkanen, H. (2010). Business model innovation vs replication: financial performance implications of strategic emphases. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 18(1), 39-56.

    Aspara, J., Lamberg, J.A., Laukia, A. & Tikkanen, H. (2013). Corporate business model transformation and inter-organizational cognition: the case of Nokia. Long Range Planning, 46(6), 459-474.

    Berthon, P., Ewing, M., Pitt, L. & Naudé, P. (2003). Understanding B2B and the Web: The acceleration of coordination and motivation. Industrial Marketing Management, 32(7), 553-561.

    Brennan, R. & Croft, R. (2012). The use of social media in B2B marketing and branding: An exploratory study. Journal of Customer Behaviour, 11(2), 101-115.

    Grant, D.B. (2012). Logistics Management. Pearson Education, Harlow, UK.

    Holmlund, M., Kowalkowski, C., & Biggemann, S. (2016). Organizational behavior in innovation, marketing, and purchasing in business service contexts—An agenda for academic inquiry. Journal of Business Research, 69(7), 2457-2462.

    Lambert, D.M. & Cooper, M.C. (2000). Issues in supply chain management. Industrial Marketing Management, 29(1, 65-83.

    Mahadevan, B. (2000). Business models for Internet-based e-commerce: An anatomy. California Management Review, 42(4, 55-69.

    Markus, L., & Loebbecke, C. (2013). Commoditized digital processes and business community platforms: new opportunities and challenges for digital business strategies. MIS Quarterly, 37 (2), 649–653.

    Ratnasingam, P. (2005). Trust in inter-organizational exchanges: a case study in business to business electronic commerce. Decision Support Systems, 39(3), 525-544.

    Strandvik, T., Holmlund, M., & Grönroos, C. (2014). The mental footprint of marketing in the boardroom. Journal of Service Management, 25(2), 241-252.

    Xing, Y., Grant, D.B., McKinnon, A.C., & Fernie, J. (2011). The interface between retailers and logistics service providers in the online market. European Journal of Marketing, 45(3), 334-357.

    Wongsansukcharoen, J., Trimetsoontorn, J. & Fongsuwan, W. (2015). Social CRM, RMO and business strategies affecting banking performance effectiveness in B2B context. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 30(6), 742-760.
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